American confidence in the armed services has dropped sharply over the last five years, and a new study from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute said political polarization in the military is a top contributing factor.
The Reagan National Defense Survey, which was released this week, found that 48% of respondents said they had a great deal of trust and confidence in the military. That’s up slightly from 45% last year but a significant decrease from the 70% of people who answered that way in 2018.
This year’s survey was the first time the group asked respondents why they lacked confidence in the military. Three of the eight options were on the military’s different types of leadership. The most common response was military leadership becoming overly politicized, with 62% of respondents picking it. Over half also palmed the performance and competence of the president, the military’s civilian leadership, uniformed military officers, and the military’s ability to win a potential future war.
There was a strong partisan divide within some of the choices respondents identified as their reason for their lack of confidence in the military. Fifty percent of respondents said the “so-called ‘woke’ practices,” though “there is a sizable partisan disparity on this, with far more Republicans that Democrats blaming ‘wokeness,’” according to the summary of the survey. Comparatively, 46% of respondents said extremism within the military, a point mainly held by Democrats, is what sparked their lack of confidence in the military.
Just under half of the respondents cited the military’s performance in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades as the reason they aren’t confident.
The survey also showed how people perceive the various components and fallout from the war in Ukraine. Perception of Russia as an enemy hit a high this year, rising to 82%, up from 65% a year ago. The perception of Ukraine as an ally rose from 49% last year to 76%, and 57% of respondents believe the U.S. has to continue to stand with Ukraine as the war continues. Roughly 40% of respondents said the U.S. was giving about the right amount of aid to Ukraine, while a quarter said it was too little and another quarter said it was too much.